Electronic Voting – Why It’s Bad For Democracy

 

Report from Voters Unite

 

Table of Contents

A. Requirements for legitimate, democratic elections.

B. Can computers serve the requirements for legitimate, democratic elections?

C. What is an audit?

D. Will audits ever be done?

E. Surprise random counts of small percentages of VVPAT do not prove evote accuracy.

F. When technicians handle systems for non-technical staff, this opens the door to fraud.

G. More problems with electronic voting and vote-tabulating systems.

H. Voters with disabilities.

I. The alternatives are better: Lever machines.

J. The alternatives are better: Paper ballots and precinct-count optical scanners.

K Computerized elections are a political problem.

L. Uniform technology and national standards or control cannot create election integrity.

M. Best sources of news and information.

 

A. Requirements for legitimate, democratic elections.

 

Election procedures must be conducted in public before multipartisan observers. When election procedures are concealed, errors and fraud can occur. The use of computers prevents observation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud in new and profound ways compared to older technologies, and therefore if computers are used the law must require appropriate security:

 

All vote-recording and vote-counting must be observed as a routine matter. Participation in the conduct of elections, observation, and verification of outcomes should not require expertise in computers or other technical disciplines. Election outcomes must be easily verifiable -- and verified -- without technological or legal obstacles.

 

Elections should be about voters selecting our public servants, not about computers and technology. Elections should not require citizens to trust the word of technologists that computerized procedures were appropriate and computer-generated outcomes accurate, or force citizens and candidates to try to prove irregularities with circumstantial evidence (such as disparity between exit polls and announced outcomes) because of technological or legal barriers to direct observation of ballot-recording and vote-counting, or barriers to obtaining or viewing documents from Boards of Elections.

 

 

B. Can computers serve the requirements for legitimate, democratic elections?

 

People cannot observe what a computer is doing in its internal memory. This is a problem if computers are used to record and/or count votes.

To solve the problem, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri(www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html )  developed the concept of voter-verified paper audit trails or VVPAT. The proper use of VVPAT converts both vote-recording and vote-counting to paper-based procedures, which enables people to observe.

 

1. Problem: A voter can't tell if his or her ballot is being correctly recorded in computer memory.

 

Solution: During the election, the voter-verified paper ballot enables each voter to observe that his or her votes are recorded correctly on paper (a permanent, non-electronic material).

 

2. Problem: No one can observe the computer’s internal tally process or confirm its accuracy.

 

Solution: After the election, an audit of the VVPAT enables election observers to observe that the votes on paper ballots are tallied correctly, and that any discrepancies between electronic tallies and paper tallies are reconciled.

 

 

C. What is an audit?

 

An audit of an election conducted with electronic voting systems with VVPAT starts with a count of the votes on the voter-verified paper ballots, after which all discrepancies between the electronic and VVPAT tallies are reconciled.

 

Dr. Douglas Jones of the University of Iowa and three-time chairman of Iowa's board of voting system examiners, in a recent email, described part of the reconciliation. (Dr. Jones’ web site ishttp://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/ )

 

The electronic record and the printed record are both viewed as fallible and subject to subversion.  A hacker can hack into a computer and corrupt data.  A counterfeiter can print up counterfeit ballots and swap them for the real ones.  We can adopt technical means to defend against either attack, but if we adopt laws that say:

 

            In the event of a disagreement, the paper dominates.

 

Then all you need is a good counterfeiter, while if your rules say

 

             In the event of a disagreement, the electronic copy dominates.

 

Then, all you need is a good hacker.  The rule I would prefer to see says:

 

            In the event of a disagreement, an investigation must be initiated in order to

 determine which copy is most likely to be correct...

 

The rules could go on at length about what other things to examine, such as poll books, event logs, exit polls, and other evidence that could serve to corroborate one or the other copy.

 

In other words, there should be both an investigation into the conduct of the election (to determine whether there were irregularities by people) AND examination of the computer hardware andsoftware (to determine whether the computer was hacked or made an error).

 

 

D. Will audits ever be done?

 

It is unlikely that audits as described above will be done. Boards of Elections do not have the staff, expertise, or resources to examine or correct their own election software. This would require thorough knowledge of the software used, but all major vendors claim that their software must remain a trade secret. Errors found but not corrected would continue to cause problems in later elections.

 

In the Information Technology world, we recognize that computers provide speed but audits provide accuracy. Companies do complete audits of their computer systems on a continuous basis, because that is the only way to find and correct errors which would otherwise cause customers to take their business elsewhere. Those customers can discover errors through the use of receipts, tracking numbers, invoices, monthly statements, etc.

 

In elections, because of the secret ballot, there are no comparable ways for voters and candidates to detect errors and fraud. This is why proper use of the VVPAT as described in section C. is needed.

 

Due to the need for audits of elections run with evoting systems, it is clear that computers make election legitimacy more complex, costly, and time-consuming to achieve. It would require much less effort to fully restore and maintain lever machines, or to securely guard paper ballots that were marked by hand and to recount such ballots by hand before an audience of observers.

 

 

E. Surprise random counts of small percentages of VVPAT do not prove evote accuracy.

 

If a surprise random check of a small percentage of transactions could ensure the accuracy of a computer system, no bank or other company would ever spend the time and money to perform a complete audit.

 

Yet the idea of counting only a small “statistically significant” percentage of the VVPAT appeals to many -- it acknowledges the limited resources that we allocate for elections; it enables our Boards of Elections to avoid the time and expense of counting all the VVPAT. For example, a bill in the New York state legislature would require counting 3% of the VVPAT. The bill does not require an audit or reconciliation of discrepancies, does not require 100% accuracy, and does not require the public to be informed of any discrepancies discovered.

 

Problems with counting only 3% of the VVPAT include:

 

1. Trust-the-statistician vs. observation. If observers can watch the count of 3% of the ballots cast, then the election has 3% legitimacy.

 

After the November, 2004, election, discussions about "statistically significant percentages" flooded the internet as experts tried to analyze the numbers, but most citizens are not statisticians.

 

If only 3% of the VVPAT is counted, and is considered significant, most citizens would be forced to trust the statisticians that 3% is in fact a statistically significant percentage, and would be unable to confirm the math or the theory of statistical significance. In effect, a degree in math or statistics would become the new requirement for voter confidence.

 

Moreover, statistical significance may be an inappropriate consideration. Each different ballot design involves different computer programming for vote recording and vote counting. There is no reason to believe that if ballots are counted correctly in one district, they would be counted correctly in other districts where the ballot design is different, requires different programming, and can generate different errors.

 

2. Corporate control of vote-counting. If 3% of the VVPAT is counted, 97% of vote counting would be in private rather than public hands, raising questions of corporate partisanship, as well as motivation and opportunity for fraud.

 

3. Some types of computer errors and fraud may not show up in small samples. These include:

 

a.       Intermittent errors or fraud triggered by particular combinations of votes and/or particular ballot designs.

 

b.      Legally "insignificant" vote switches per machine. A study by Yale students showed that with a single statewide system, centralized manipulation is facilitated and can swing elections with one or two vote switches per machine. This is why, when computers are used, 100% accuracy must be mandated. The study:   www.wheresthepaper.org/p43_di_franco.pdf   (requires Adobe 6.0).  Comment on it:   www.wheresthepaper.org/CACM_YaleStudy.htm

 

4. Creation of two classes of voters. 3% of voters would cast ballots that were confirmed to be tallied correctly. 97% of voters would cast ballots that were not.

 

5. Mandate for unverified elections. The requirement for only 3% of the VVPAT to be counted puts the burden on candidates and voters to pay for counts of the other 97%, or to struggle in the courts for the right to verify an election in a timely manner before certification of outcomes.

 

One trigger for recounts has been a “close election,” but this concept is appropriate only to older technologies, such as paper ballots and lever machines. With computerized voting, falsified tallies can easily be made to provide any margin of victory.

 

A proposed trigger for recounts is disparity between pre-election or exit polls and announced outcomes. But in 2004, pre-election polls were manipulated (“Gallup defends results against MoveOn.org attack," USA Today, 9/29/04) and in November, 2004, exit polls as reported in the major media were changed to match the announced tallies. ("Why Did CNN Change Their Exit Poll Data for Ohio After 1:00 AM?"   www.buzzflash.com/analysis/04/11/ana04025.html )

6. Electronic voting and vote tabulating systems should not be treated as exceptions to professional Information Technology standards, which require 100% audit, 100% accuracy.

 

100% of computer systems comparable to voting systems are 100% audited, and discrepancies are reconciled to achieve 100% accuracy. The phrase "comparable to voting systems" means computer systems that capture transaction information from the human world into electronic memory(such as an order to purchase by mail, or a financial transaction).

 

The idea that counting 3% of the VVPAT is sufficient to prove integrity of 100% of computer operations is based on several false premises:

 

a.       Computers are accurate and secure unless proven otherwise.

 

b.      If one computer is proven accurate, hundreds of other similar computers are also accurate.

 

c.       Elections are like a court of law where a piece of technology, or an unobserved procedure, should be assumed accurate until proven inaccurate.

 

These and other false premises, such as “if the chief election official of a jurisdiction trusts the computers, the computers are trustworthy,” have been used to evade the routine auditing to which all commercial systems are subject.

 

Computer systems are merely tools created by people, and are always error-prone and vulnerable to manipulation by insiders. 100% audits, including reconciliation of discrepancies to achieve 100% accuracy, have been the only way to achieve accuracy of operation. In the Information Technology world, one common definition of computer security is "the results of normal operation have been proved correct by independent audit."

 

Most people understand that 100% audits with 100% accuracy are needed to prevent or detect financial fraud, but don't apply this understanding to computer systems used for voting and vote tabulation. Obviously audits are needed in both worlds for the same reason.

 

If you find an error on your bank statement, and a bank officer says, "our records are never perfect, and we didn't audit your account this month because our 3% random check said we were accurate enough," that would be unacceptable. It should be unacceptable in elections.

 

One unspoken argument is that elections CANNOT be held to routine Information Technology standards – because in real life Boards of Election cannot perform computer audits. They lack not only the intention or will, but the legal mandate, expertise, staff, and funding. This is why any law that allows use of evote equipment must mandate and fund training of elections staff prior to use, require vendors to provide thorough training on their equipment, and ban vendor service contracts.

 

 

F. When technicians handle systems for non-technical staff, this opens the door to fraud.

 

The vast majority of election professionals are not computer experts. Once they acquire and begin to use electronic voting systems, they become dependent on vendor technicians to handle the computers. They can’t monitor what's going on because they don't know the technology.

 

For example, a technician might say, "I better check the files." Who would question that? Or understand the answer if they do ask? Yet a brief unsupervised access to the computer is a large-enough window of opportunity for someone to falsify an election.

 

Given the public exposure of voting systems, and the fact that in most cases they are overseen by non-technical staff, it would be impossible to control what software is in the computer during the election, or to prevent later tampering with software, ballots, and tallies by insiders or technicians.

 

The Triad incident in Hocking County, Ohio in December, 2004, is an example. Prior to the recount in Hocking County, a Triad technician told non-technical election officials that the county’s tabulation computer needed a new battery. He then took apart the computer and possibly put in a “patch” (different software). When the story was publicized there was an outcry. Yet the deputy director of elections, Sherole Eaton, said that she trusted the company, that they “ran” the elections for the county, and that “A lot of the [election] boards hire the company that [makes] their program to come in on election night and do all of the computer work and run the tabulators….”   Affidavit of Sherole Eaton, 12/13/04, www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=494   "Ohio Recount Stirs Trouble" Kim Zetter, Wired News, 12/20/04.  www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,66072,00.html

 

Large Boards of Elections have computer staffs, but these employees aren't running elections and overseeing the handling of the voting or vote tabulating equipment. Also, these employees may not be security experts.

 

 

G. More problems with electronic voting and vote-tabulating systems.

 

1. They don’t work reliably.

 

VotersUnite.org has compiled a 97-page list of documented failures of evote systems from seven vendors (www.votersunite.org/info/messupsbyvendor.asp ). This list includes primarily dramatic visible failures, such as machines that freeze, crash, or refuse to register votes during an election; incidents where the voter selects one candidate but the computer screen registers the vote for a different candidate; machines that fail to show some races; elections where the number of ballots or votes is dramatically different from the number of voters; etc.

 

However, each visible failure usually means that many other failures are occurring which would be revealed only by an audit – votes recorded or handled incorrectly and wrong final tallies. Yet there has never been an independent audit of any electronic voting system, and in the absence of voter-verified paper ballots, such audits cannot be performed. For this reason, the accuracy of recorded ballots and final tallies cannot be proved, and the extent of errors is unknown.

 

Only in the professional field of elections have such repeated computer failures been ignored or tolerated, and defended with unfounded assertions such as “The election outcome was not affected” and “the problems were caused by voters (or poll workers, etc).” It is bizarre that such failures have not caused Boards of Elections to stop using computers and seek alternative voting technology, nor to demand routine auditing of their evote systems.

 

Studies that claim to prove the accuracy of evote systems, or compare evote systems to other voting technologies, have merely accepted the tallies provided by the computers -- and elections officials

-- and assumed that they are accurate. The recent CalTech/MIT study on residual votes in the 2004 election is an example.  www.vote.caltech.edu/media/documents/vtp_wp21v2.3.pdf

 

2. Federal Certification does NOT mean that a voting system works.

 

Despite hundreds of documented visible failures of certified voting systems, and the fact that no evote system has ever been audited, some people still believe that certified systems are guaranteed to work -- until they read an interview in which an authoritative person states that certification does not involve comprehensive testing and does not require the system to work.

 

Federal certification means that “[an electronic voting system] has to have [certain] functions. But it doesn’t have to work."

This candid statement comes from the I-Team interview with executives of MicroVote, which makes electronic voting systems.  www.wishtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=1647598&nav=0Ra7JXq2

 

3. Unintended use of uncertified systems.

 

Another problem is that vendors can deliver or install uncertified versions of their hardware and software. Due to the lack of computer knowledge within Boards of Elections, uncertified systems have been used without anyone noticing until after one or more elections. This has occurred in California, Indiana, and other states. In the absence of an independent audit of the election, there is no remedy other than to run another election. This has not been done. Instead, the public is given the unfounded reassurance that “We are sure that the election outcome was not affected.”

 

4. Communications devices, Flash memory devices.

 

Communications devices, including wireless ones, in voting and vote tabulating equipment should be banned because they enable undetectable modification of all software, ballots, and tallies by individuals in remote locations.

 

Regular expert inspection of electronic voting systems must be required and funded to ensure thatcommunications devices do not somehow appear. There must be criminal penalties for violation of this ban.

 

Dr. Mercuri told a story once of inspecting a particular evoting machine. The sales material and the salesman had said there were no communication devices in the system. She asked to look inside; the salesman opened it up, and there was a wireless communications device. She said, Oh, I see you have a whatever-it-was. The salesman slammed the unit shut and escorted her to the door.

 

Communications devices also make the secrecy of the ballot increasingly vulnerable as vendors create “integrated election systems” that verify the identity of the voter, present the correct ballot for their election district, and then record their choices.

 

Flash memory devices pose another danger. These devices now look like wristwatches, pens, and cigarette lighters, and would not be recognized by non-technical staff. A technician who is not supervised by knowledgeable staff can copy the entire election software and data, including ballots and tally sheets, etc., in less than a minute. Later the technician can return and restore a modified copy of the software, ballots and tallies. An entire county or state can be affected.

 

In contrast, imagine someone walking off with all the paper ballots for a county or state. Everyone would understand what they were seeing.

 

5. Evote systems are easily corrupted.

 

A person with moderate computer skills can read information that has been on the internet for over a year, and then hack these systems to give falsified election results. The hacks require only brief access. Direct physical access is not needed because hacks can be done over a phone line and modem, a wireless communication device in the voting system, or over the internet.

 

In September, 2004, in Washington D.C., Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org held a press conference where she demonstrated how to change the votes in a Diebold GEMS central tabulator and in a Sequoia system (www.wheresthepaper.org/BBV_GEMSreport.htm ). Harris was dismissed by the major media, but in fact the "Trusted Agent Report" commissioned by the Maryland General Assembly had said the same thing in January, 2004, about the Diebold GEMS central tabulator (they used more technical language, and didn’t publicize the exact methods like Harris did):

 

"Given either physical or remote access ... it is possible to modify the GEMS database ... without detection. Furthermore, system auditing is not configured to detect access to the database."

-- Trusted Agent Report,  www.raba.com/press/TA_Report_AccuVote.pdf , page 21

 

Additional vulnerabilities were found in a study done in Ohio, which discussed Diebold Election Systems, ES&S, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems. The Ohio Secretary of State's DRE Security Assessment, Volume 1 of November 21, 2003, is a 46-page Summary of Findings and Recommendations produced by InfoSENTRY Services, Inc.

http://serform.sos.state.oh.us/sos/hava/files/infosentry1.pdf

The full report is 280 pages. www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/hava/files/compuware.pdf

 

6. Procedures other than auditing cannot ensure election integrity.

 

A variety of activities can reduce the number of errors and discrepancies than may occur during elections, but these activities cannot ensure election integrity.

 

a. Hardware and software testing. Such testing, if accompanied by correction of all errors that are found, can reduce the number of discrepancies and computer errors found during an audit. Due to certification requirements and the length of time required for certification, however, such errors are likely to remain uncorrected. (Certification can take a year or more.)

 

b. Use of open source software. Open source software is software that is posted publicly for technologists worldwide to read. When errors are found they are discussed on the internet and suggestions for correction are made. Again, however, due to certification requirements and the length of time required for certification, such errors are likely to remain uncorrected.

 

c. Reading and examination of software. If reading and examining software could eliminate errors, no company would ever perform continuous audits. Professor Aviel Rubin, the computer security expert who headed the Johns Hopkins team that wrote the first report revealing the insecurity of Diebold software, has stated publicly that no examination of software of the size and complexity of voting systems can guarantee that the software does not contain fraudulent parts. http://avirubin.com/vote/analysis/index.html

 

d. Escrow copies of software. The idea of keeping copies of software in escrow has many flaws. First, it assumes that the escrow copy has no errors or backdoors in it. Second, it assumes that if software in an election system is changed once, it cannot be changed back to the original escrowed version. Neither assumption is true. Comparing software escrowed one day to what is in the computer on another day will reveal only very sloppily performed fraud.

 

 

H. Voters with disabilities.

 

1. The "private and independent vote."

 

The Help America Vote Act requires voters with disabilities to have a private and independent vote, and indeed the only legitimate use of computers in voting is to assist voters with disabilities or non-English languages to mark their ballot privately and independently. However some accessibility advocates have urged the use of electronic voting systems with accessibility attachments and without voter-verified paper ballots.

 

Unfortunately, one strategy for disenfranchising voters in 2004 was to focus attention on the experience of voting and to gloss over the question of whether or not the votes would be counted. This was done with provisional ballots, called “placebo ballots” in a report by Demos.
www.demos-usa.org/pubs/HAVA%20-%20Placebo%20Ballots%20bw%20101904.pdf

A problem similar to uncounted provisional ballots faces voters with disabilities, for whom the “private and independent vote” cast into an unaudited computer may mean nothing more than a private and independent experience in a voting booth, fiddling with some assistive devices. This is why accessibility within the voting booth needs to be combined with verifiability AND actual verification when computers are used to record and tally the votes.

 

Moreover, electronic voting systems don’t give anybody a private and independent VOTE.

 

Every vote cast on a computer is handed over to a large number of anonymous technical people who have been responsible for the system from its initial design, programming, testing, maintenance, storage, programming for the ballot, transportation, and installation in the polling site. And another cast of characters after the election.

 

A computer is only an instrument created and managed by people.  Every voter using the computer is being assisted by these people, so the vote is not unassisted, private or independent. Without the complete audit, we can’t know if these assistants are recording our ballot choices, or counting our votes, honestly and without mistakes.

 

Voters who are blind, or have visual impairments, would get accessibility, privacy, and security if they mark paper ballots by using ballot templates like those used in Rhode Island and in other countries. There are data-to-voice scanners that can read the paper ballot back to the voter through headphones. There are accessible ballot-printing machines such as Populex, and ballot-marking machines such as the Automark, that can assist voters with a wide variety of disabilities. www.populex.com/DPB_Intro.htm       www.vogueelection.com/products_automark.html

 

2. Can all voters use the same voting technology?

 

Some people have suggested that all voters should use exactly the same voting technology.

This may not be practical or possible, because not all voters require accessibility devices or non-English language displays.

 

When voters with and without disabilities use what appears to be "the same machine," they are not using the same software.

 

Voters with disabilities will use accessibility attachments. Internally within the computer, each attachment is managed by a "driver" (software that handles communication between the computer and the specific accessibility attachment) that is different from other drivers (such as those for other accessibility devices, or the touchscreen or buttons used by voters without disabilities). A programmer can easily identify which voters are using each accessibility device. If an insider or technician wishes to switch the votes of blind voters, for example, these voters can be identified because of the devices they would be using.

 

Voters with non-English languages face similar problems, because each foreign language requires a separate font. A font is a set of graphic designs for displayable characters such as letters and numerals. Even Spanish, which has characters that are mostly the same as English, requires a character consisting of a tilde ~ over an "n" character, etc.

 

The separate font and processing needed for the computer to display non-English language ballots thus provide the opportunity to identify voters of specific language groups. There have been allegations that some voting systems are designed to enable an insider or technician to easily switch the votes by language group. This is done by inserting some lines of Visual Basic Script programming in the font files. Such programming might say, for example: if vote = Kerry, add 1 to Bush-tally; if vote = Bush, add 1 to Kerry-tally.

 

Since paper ballots can be printed in any language, it seems that the ballots of voters with non-English languages would be more secure if marked by hand or ballot-marking machine on preprinted paper ballots.

 

 

I. The alternatives are better: Lever machines.

 

1. HAVA Requirements.

 

Jurisdictions with mechanical lever machines can keep and maintain them, and purchase an accessible ballot-marking device for each polling site to comply with the HAVA requirement that voters with disabilities be able to vote without direct human assistance.

 

Accessible computerized devices can enable voters with disabilities or non-English languages to mark or print paper ballots. Computers should not be used to record and count votes, however, unless they are used according to professional standards of 100% audit, 100% accuracy.

 

2. Lever machines can be repaired to nearly-new condition.

 

All parts for lever machines, as well as service technicians, are supplied by International Election Systems Corp., 1550 Bridgeboro Road, PO Box 70, Edgewater Park NJ 08010.  Telephone 609-871-2100.  The president of the company is Richard Nowetner.

Engineers say that with proper routine maintenance, the lever machines should work for 150 years or more. If they aren't working now, that is due to not being maintained. Proper repair can bring them to nearly-new condition. The most common damage is to the casters they roll on, and the repair is to attach new casters. Most damage occurs in trucking. Damage to the metal casing is repaired in a manner similar to car body repair.

 

3. Lever machines are more secure than evote systems.

 

a. Length of access time required to corrupt one or more machines versus magnitude of effect.

 

Lever machines: One person would require access for several hours to each machine. Seals outside the machine have unique numbers, and are not standard products that can be easily replaced.

 

Seals inside the machine would have to be broken or tampered with also, which would reveal the tampering. These are “crush seals” which consist of pieces of lead crushed over copper wires.

 

Tampering with the mechanical parts inside the machine would require disassembly of major portions of the machine, which would take many hours, followed by re-assembly which would take additional hours. All this would have to be done within the month before an election because in most jurisdictions the ballot is not prepared until then.

 

Evote systems: (1) One technical insider or hacker using an automated script running in one computer anywhere in the world would require less than a second access per computer and can corrupt all similar electronic voting systems in a state through their communications devices.

 

(2) One technical insider with no access to the computers can distribute a corrupt "patch" whichtechnicians would install with or without knowledge that it is corrupt. This could have happened in Georgia, 2002, where allegedly the software in the Diebold systems was replaced repeatedly up to two days prior to the election.

 

(3) One non-technical insider, hacker, or technician can falsify precinct and overall tallies in the central tabulator, which would require less than a minute access either directly or via communications devices.

 

b. Ease of detecting corruption.

 

Lever machines: With an hour of training, one person can inspect lever machines and detect broken or wrongly-numbered outside seals. If the outside seals are broken or wrongly-numbered, an experienced technician can examine the crush seals and mechanics inside the machine.

 

Evote systems: With years of training, one person can read and examine the software for years and not find all corruption in it.

 

c. Possibility of oversight provided by Board of Elections staff.

 

Lever machines: Boards of Elections have many technicians who can safeguard and fix them.

 

Evote systems: Boards of Elections have few or no computer staff who can safeguard and fix electronic voting systems, or oversee the work of vendors.

 

 

J. The alternatives are better: Paper ballots and precinct-count optical scanners.

 

HAVA requirements can be met by using paper ballots marked by hand or an accessible ballot-marking device in each polling site, with precinct-count optical scanners.

Optical scanners are computers, and pose the problem of programming errors, fraud, and unobservable counting. For example, there were widespread allegations of falsified tallies from optical scanners in Florida after our November, 2004, election. These allegations gained seriousness when county election officials refused to comply with Freedom of Information requests to view precinct tally sheets.

 

Should optical scanners be 100% audited with multipartisan observation, with 100% accuracy required? The problems in Florida seem to suggest "yes."

 

The March 2001 Caltech report called "Revised and Expanded Report: A Preliminary Assessment of the Reliability of Existing Voting Equipment" said that lever machines, and hand-marked paper ballots counted by hand or optical scanner, rank among the most reliable of voting systems. Summary:   www.hss.caltech.edu/~voting/Executive%20Summary.March30.pdf

Full report:   www.hss.caltech.edu/~voting/CalTech_MIT_Report_Version2.pdf

 

A system using hand-marked paper ballots, optical scanners, and ballot marking devices for accessibility is:

1) One of the most reliable systems available.

2) Inherently voter-verified.

3) Incorporates paper ballots that are easy to hand-count where necessary.

4) Precinct-based optical scanners allow automated counting to satisfy election officials.

5) Ballot-marking devices meet multilingual and accessibility needs.

6) Less expensive than evote systems both in initial purchase costs and ongoing maintenance.

    www.nyvv.org/paperballotCostsMain.htm 

    www.votersunite.org/info/costcomparison.asp

    www.wheresthepaper.org/ny.html#BoLipariReports

 

1. States and big cities that use paper ballots and optical scanners.

 

Illinois, Chicago. 83% of the population of Illinois (10 million) votes using such systems, including Chicago.  One Illinois County’s rationale:

www.willclrk.com/votingsystem.htm#Why%20was%20the%20optical%20scan%20system%20selected?

 

80% of Arizona, including Phoenix.

www.azsos.gov/election/voter_outreach/info.htm

 

Michigan Secretary of State’s recommendation:

www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1640_9150-43906--M_2001_5,00.html

 

States that use mostly precinct-count optical scan systems also include

South Dakota   www.sdsos.gov/2000/00pripre.htm

Minnesota    www.sos.state.mn.us/election/Interactive%20Election%20Guides/HTML/15.htm

 

Seattle

 

2. Canadian elections with paper ballots.

 

National and provincial elections in Canada are conducted with paper ballots marked and counted by hand. They use ballot templates for blind voters. Unlike the attitudes expressed in this country in recent years that “elections are never perfect” and “we can’t possibly hand-count paper ballots” Canadians have no trouble hand-counting the votes on paper ballots. They expect and achieve 100% accuracy.

 

3. Hand-count methods.

 

The report “How to Hand-count Votes Marked on Paper Ballots” describes several easy methods for hand-counts.  www.wheresthepaper.org/CountPaperBallots.htm

 

Hand counts are done in Vermont, and the election law of 2003 described in detail their procedures. Some of those details were omitted in their revised law of 2004, but the old version can be obtained from the office of the Secretary of State.

 

 

K. Computerized elections are a political problem.

 

The Resolution on Electronic Voting, endorsed by thousands of computer technologists, says "Computerized voting equipment is inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering."   www.verifiedvoting.org/article.php?id=5028

 

Every study of electronic voting has said that systems from the major vendors are insecure and of poor quality. www.wheresthepaper.org/links.html#sec

 

Many people have trouble with their Windows PCs, and the systems are notoriously insecure, but several of our major evote vendors have built their evote systems on top of Windows.

 

A study by Findlaw showed that in September, 2004, 42% of Americans distrusted electronic voting.  http://company.findlaw.com/pr/2004/090704.electronicvoting.html

 

A continuous flow of bad news from around our country tells us that electronic voting and vote tabulating systems don’t work.   www.votersunite.org/info/previousmessups.asp

 

In spite of all this, few government officials with responsibility for elections are heeding the constant stream of warnings about electronic voting, and the expressed distrust of voters. The major media and many officials are still urging us to convert to electronic voting. In 2004 Americans witnessed an overwhelming incidence of dirty tricks and failures of our election infrastructure, and the use of unverifiable and unverified computers is part of this failure.

 

Americans have a real need. We need election systems that work, that can be managed by the kind of staffs who work for our Boards of Elections at the county and state level, and that can be overseen by ordinary non-technical multipartisan citizen observers.

 

Computers can be made to work reliably through the use of audits, but no one in a position of authority is demanding that audits be performed. Around our country computers used in elections are being used incorrectly, accompanied by untested trust, assertions that elections are never perfect, and statements that elections cannot be run any other way because Americans are incapable of counting ballots, maintaining lever machines, recruiting and training poll workers, etc.

 

In states with electronic voting, some people have suggested that if any voter doesn't want to cast his or her vote on a computer, they should request a paper absentee ballot. But elections are not just about "my vote," they are about the will of the people -- all votes. Unaudited computers are the wrong technology for elections for all voters.

 

A broken democracy can’t be fixed by using unaudited computers to record and count votes. If democracy is government "of the people, by the people, for the people," the law needs to put people back into the center of our elections, and not replace citizen participation by computers.

 

 

L. Uniform technology and national standards or control cannot create election integrity.

 

There is a push now for national standards for voting technology, and national control and standardization of election procedure.

 

These things won't strengthen our democracy, however, because election integrity results from appropriate multipartisan observation. No one is proposing standards to require multipartisan observers for all election procedures, and to require all procedures to be conducted in a way that enables effective observation by ordinary non-technical citizens.

 

Uniform technology cannot provide uniform integrity because different insiders, technicians, or hackers can still falsify the ballots or tallies in different jurisdictions. Uniform technology DOES enable one insider, technician, or hacker to falsify all systems more easily.